Monday, February 27, 2012


The third entry in our series of posts from LeaderShapers working on TEDx Events:
Hello, LeaderShapers!

My name is Lindsay and I am a senior double-majoring in Psychology and English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  I attended UT’s first session of the LeaderShape Institute in May of 2011 and it changed my life to say the least.  I developed a vision for how I want to see the world change—“For every individual to have access to an education and sustainable livelihood so they can live safely, healthily, and happily.” I am so passionate about making this vision a reality that I have now decided to pursue a career working with nonprofits instead of psychological research. I truly believe we can make this vision a reality!

One of the goals I set for myself was to host a TEDx event, an independently organized TED-like event.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a national nonprofit that hosts annual conferences where the biggest and brightest experts in their field—like Al Gore and Bill Gates—share innovate ideas about how they are changing the world.  Committed to sharing “ideas worth spreading,” TED posts each “TEDTalk” to for anyone around the world to view free of charge, creating a global community of passionate doers and thinkers.  TEDx events are smaller versions of the TED conference that engage local individuals in this global conversation and network of world-changers.

So how does hosting a TEDx event at UT support my vision?  I think one of the first steps to changing the world is hearing from others who are creating that change now in their own unique way.  TED is fully committed to spreading ideas that are changing the world and inspiring each individual to take that knowledge and make a difference.  If we could bring TEDx to UT, we could educate and inspire a group of people in Knoxville—a group that could then begin making a difference.  The University of Tennessee has never hosted a TEDx event before, and I believe it is crucial to create a network and forum for individuals to engage with one another here in Knoxville, the surrounding area, and consequently, the world as a whole.  Imagine what a group of passionate and engaged individuals could do!

With that dream in place, I started planning a TEDx event shortly after I returned from LeaderShape in May.  We set a date of February 17, 2012 for TEDxUTK and have been working hard to make a great event since then.  Now I generally feel pretty comfortable planning events like this, but I have really grown and learned so much during this process.  Let me share with you a few things I’ve learned so far.  As you work towards making your own vision a reality, keep these thoughts in mind.

1.     Plan for everything to not go according to plan.  When I first received approval from the university to host TEDxUTK, I made a timeline.  I made a month-to-month action plan of what our planning process should look like: what we should be working on, when we should be working on it, and when we should meet our deadlines.  That is a really great idea in theory, but everything rarely works out exactly the way you think it will—regardless of how much you plan.  There have been so many things that have come up that I didn’t anticipate (e.g. not having the budget I expected, not being able to secure the venue we wanted, etc.).  Now it is very important to plan and I strongly advise thinking about all the logistics of your event ahead of time, but learn to be flexible as you manage the unexpected curveballs that will undoubtedly be thrown your way. 

2.     Keep the end goal in mind.  I would be lying if I said there weren’t times while planning that I thought, “Why am I doing this?  Why did I think this was a good idea?  Is it too late to call the whole thing off?”  Working towards your vision is scary and sometimes, it can be downright terrifying.  It’s all well and good to come up with goals and visions at LeaderShape, but making those happen in reality is scary!  You set yourself up for frustration, failure, rejection, disappointment, and the list goes on and on.  I have felt so overwhelmed during periods of this process and so afraid that while all of these people are depending on me, I am going to fail miserably and create nothing more than a train-wreck.  It is so important during these moments to re-visit your vision and remember why it is that you are passionate about achieving it.  Embrace that fear as part of the process and use it as a vehicle for action—if you didn’t feel some sense of fear, you wouldn’t care about reaching your goals successfully.   

3.     Surround yourself with others who support you and your vision.  This is key.  Being a leader is lonely and downright depressing at times.  While you are working towards your vision, it is easy to isolate yourself and dwell in that loneliness if you don’t have a strong support system.  LeaderShape is such a unique experience and I think having the support of other LeaderShapers is an integral part of reaching your goals.  My friend Christine has been a life-saver for me.  She attended a different session of LeaderShape, but she understands having a vision and the trials that come from working towards it.  Whenever I share my struggles and fears with her, she is so incredibly encouraging and helps me find that motivation I need to continue planning TEDxUTK.  Reach out to people within your family cluster or other LeaderShapers you know, and really rely on each other for support.  Passion and motivation come and go sometimes, and it’s so important to have others who can encourage you along the way.  Even a short chat over coffee can be enough of a kick-start to help you overcome that obstacle and take one step closer towards your goal.

I can’t wait to update you all after TEDxUTK!  Join our community and start making a difference in your part of the world along with us.  And if you are working towards your vision, I’d love to hear about it!  You can tweet me anytime at  Let’s support each other as we make our visions a reality!  

LeaderShape Love,

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